Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City

Richard D. Lloyd, Author . Routledge $19.95 (295p) ISBN 978-0-415-95182-1

The increasingly intimate but still uneasy relationship between "alternative" cultures and the forces of globalization underlies Vanderbilt professor Lloyd's sparkling ethnographic study of Chicago's hipster enclave Wicker Park. Once the down-at-heel home of Frankie Machine, the junkie protagonist of Nelson Algren's Walk on the Wild Side , it's now the sort of neighborhood where one can look at art, linger over a cafe americano, listen to poetry or indie rock, or be cordially abused by record store clerks straight out of High Fidelity , which was filmed there. Good on the big picture, Lloyd's 10 chapters situate the evolving neighborhood within a complex nexus of commercial and social forces that he calls the "aesthetic economy." But as thorough (and commendably dogma- and jargon-free) as Lloyd is on background, it is in the "field" that he shines, bringing abstract concepts to life with a real feel for the "new economy" bars, galleries and high-tech startups, as well as the often happily exploited people who work in them. Trading high wages for the romance of bohemia, the bartenders, baristas and code punchers of Wicker Park are evolving new codes and values often strikingly at odds with suburban ones, and Lloyd's study gives their evolution a wealth of nuanced human detail. This combination of solid research and a good ear gives Lloyd's book an unusual depth; none of his readers is likely to undertip an eyebrow-studded waitserver anytime soon. 15 b&w photos. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/29/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
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Hardcover - 295 pages - 978-0-415-95181-4
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